Window of Opportunity
December 27, 2010 1 Comment
Sky Sports News doesn’t like to admit it, but often the January Transfer Window turns out to be a bit of a damp squib. Whilst there have been some notable signings such as Arshavin, Vidic and the loan of Mascherano, ultimately it can be disappointingly quiet. Teams prefer stability, and many don’t wish to lose key players halfway through a season. This in turn creates an inflated market for potential buyers. However, the top half of the Premier League appears to have more pretenders and contenders than expected this season.
After a disrupted winter schedule there are definitely four, possibly five, teams still with ambitions to fight for the title. Below them though are still a number of teams, including a couple of surprise packages amongst some underachievers, which still feel that they can push into the European places. With the league so close and the outcomes of this season still so uncertain, could the hype be justified as managers look to spend to try and gain every possible advantage and climb the table? The radio, papers and internet sites are already full of rumours. So what can we expect?
Before some clubs are able to spend, they will have to sell players. Spurs, with a large squad, have no spaces in their 25 man squad list- and this doesn’t include the injured Jonathon Woodgate. Therefore they will look to offload bit-part players such as Woodgate (probably on-loan), Robbie Keane and David Bentley who will likely all find potential suitors within the league. Redknapp feels they are only a couple of players off launching a proper title challenge so may look to strengthen in general if the right players become available. They may in fact become available from clubs such as challengers Manchester City who will also look to sell to free space in the squad and a number of players such as England’s Shaun Wright-Phillips and Joleon Lescott are linked with moves away. Assuming these players depart they and Chelsea will be expected to make the biggest moves as they attempt to hunt down United.
Chelsea looked unbeatable early in the season and many fans and pundits alike predicted that the league would simply be a stroll for the reigning champions. However since a defeat at Anfield and the departure of Ray Wilkins a run of appalling form has exposed the squad and highlighted, oddly for Chelsea, a lack of depth. With only 19 registers players there are spaces in their squad available to be filled. Injuries to Terry and Alex exposed defensive frailties so a move for a centre back could be expected. They’ve been linked with Benfica’s Brazilian centre back David Luiz, although it remains to be seen whether they would pay a tranfer-fee that could be around £35 million.
Another option could be Bolton’s highly rated Gary Cahill, who would only cost around half of that whilst his nationality would help satisfy necessary Premier League squad quotas. However, with both targets’ clubs reluctant to see key players leave it remains to see whether Chelsea will be able to strengthen and help get their season back on track.
Manchester City- who still hold their own title ambitions- reportedly also hold an interest in these defensive targets, which could create a high price bidding war between the two wealthiest clubs in the league. Meanwhile this battle could also be carried over in the hunt for a striker. Chelsea have rather uncharacteristically been short of goals so may also look for top-class backup, and long-term replacements, for Drogba and Anelka. Whilst Man City have forwards in abundance, Santa Cruz and Adebayor are likely to leave and Tevez’s long-term future always unpredictable so their limitless funds will probably be thrown around in an attempt to land a world-class striker. However, whilst is no secret that both have previously had aspirations to take Fernando Torres it is unlikely they will get him in January despite Liverpool’s underachievement. They may however both make moves for Edin Dzeko who has 65 goals in 109 for struggling Wolfsburg and has a £34 million release clause. Man City were also linked with Newcastle’s Andy Carrol, although it is unlikely either the player or club will want the move in January.
Harder to predict are Arsenal and Manchester United’s intentions. Whilst Arsenal undoubtedly have funds, Wenger may yet again be reluctant to spend heavily and it is safe to say no-one bar the Glazers know the truth about the debt-laden club’s budget. However, if reports are to be believed both could be in the market for goalkeepers in the window. Arsenal attempted to purchase one in the summer, but with Fabianski’s improved form and Scezney providing solid cover they may wait until the summer even if Almunia does depart.
Meanwhile with Ferguson confirming this will be Van der Sar’s last season they have already tied up a deal for Danish stopper Lidegaard. Nonetheless they may still be in the market for another keeper with Ferguson’s comments about this being a sign of “looking to the future”, suggests Lindegaard may initially be a back-up in the mould of Tomas Kuszczak. Whilst Ferguson would love to sign Pepe Reina, throughout the speculation the Liverpool keeper has consistently emphasised his long-term commitment so Ajax’s World Cup runner-up keeper Maarten Stekelenburg would be the likely alternative.
Below the challenging pack, Liverpool may wish to strengthen in a bid to make an unlikely second-half surge for Champions League football. The squad, whilst still containing a reasonable amount of internationals was weakened with negative net spending during the final two years Hicks and Gillet’s tenure so new owners Fenway Sports Group will look to rebuild a title challenging squad over the next year. The squad lacks depth as shown by last season’s injury problems but Principle Owner John Henry has already stressed that the club will not rush into moves and over pay in January. Liverpool have been linked with reinforcements across the board although a striker is likely with everyone from Chelsea and Man City target Edin Dzeko to West Ham’s Carlton Cole linked. Optimistically, wingers Eden Hazard and Ashley Young have also been linked with big money moves whilst a left-back and centre back will also be priorities. Despite considerable speculation, the bulk transfer activity may well be kept until a big summer overhaul, especially with the future of manager Roy Hodgson still uncertain. Some fringe players may be on their way out and West Ham are apparently interested in putting Christian Poulsen out of his misery.
Surprise package Bolton will be looking to make sure their biggest signing of the transfer window is one of their own. If Coyle can stave off interest for Elmander and tie-up a new contract, he will fancy his chances of continuing their impressive form and clinch a very creditable top-half position. Nothing spectacular should be expected, although if they did manage to capture Charlie Adam as rumoured it would be a considerable boost. Sunderland’s intentions are less clear although with European football now a possibility it would be foolish to rule out Elis Short offering more money for players- Stephen Ireland could be an option to pursue after he failed to settle at Villa Park. However, again key to sustaining their challenge will be to keep players already at the club such as loan signings El Mohamady, Welbeck and Onuha. Meanwhile also trying to make a late surge for European football will be Everton and Aston Villa, both of whom have seen their weaknesses exposed this season. Houllier’s intentions are unclear although he will need to replace the outgoing Ireland and the out of favour Richard Dunne. Moyes meanwhile will have little funds available so it would be probably wise to look towards Manchester City. Adebayor or Santa Cruz could be available on temporary deals that would both satisfy the Merseyside club’s need for a striker and City’s need to free spaces in the squad.
The January Transfer window has an extra prominence this season as going into the New Year the league remains wide-open. Many clubs such as Bolton are also in particularly encouraging positions so may wish to gamble on achieveing European football by splashing the cash. Add to this that many clubs such as Chelsea, Liverpool and even league leaders Manchester United are dissatisfied with performances so far, and January for once could actually be a genuinely interesting transfer window. However now I’ve written this it’ll probably be fairly bog-standard with Manchester City inevitably buying someone for a considerable sum of money and Arsenal probably stealing a promising youngster for a pretty small fee. And on Sky Sports News rolling transfer coverage they’ll love it.